CHENNAI: Expectations are not high, from the Australian team that started its discovery of India on Friday, with a warm-up match in Mumbai. More than the quality of talent, there’s an ‘ex’ factor working against the tourists. It’s experience. Rather, the lack of it when it comes to playing in these conditions.
Of the 16 in Steve Smith’s squad, 11 have played Tests in Asia, but just six of them have had that experience on Indian soil. It can be a concern for a team which lost 0-3 in Sri Lanka the last time they played in the sub-continent.
IPL and Australia A trips to India notwithstanding, heat, dust, spin, noise and pressure form a combination those unaccustomed find difficult to master.
“Experience is one of the several handicaps this Australian lot has. It matters at this level and can be the difference between teams.
If the pitches are not too flat, like the one in Hyderabad (for the Bangladesh Test), the test will be new for most of them.
This is because they are a team in transition, low on experience of playing in Asia,” said former opener Aakash Chopra.
Following a shake-up in the team and section committee after a humiliating home defeat against South Africa last year, Australia have reinforcements in opening and middle order. Spinners are no rookies, but none except for Nathan Lyon has played Tests in Asia. Against two spinners at the top of their game and a bunch of batsmen used to attacking spin, these are serious inadequacies.
“Batting, bowling or fielding, how you approach situations, adapt to changes over five days and learn to take risks — comes from experience. It’s invaluable and has no substitute. The Aussies have played IPL, but this is another game, on different wickets and in different situations,” felt former wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia.
The experience story also narrates how the teams have progressed in terms of settling down in the last few years. The Australians who lost 0-4 in India four years ago were by and large new to these conditions. The same with the Indian team that lost in Australia in 2014-15. But if this Indian team is to play there now, it will have 11 players with the experience of playing Tests Down Under.
Under the circumstances, the Aussies will bank on the knowledge five of this lot gathered when they played in Chennai for their A team in 2015. Of those, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Ashton Agar are expected to play responsible roles.
“A team tours are beneficial, as many Indian players can testify. The Australians who played here for their A team will gain from the experience. But Test cricket is different. How they handle situations Day 3 onwards will be key. That’s why this will be a different challenge for them,” felt Mongia.
“You should also remember that the A tour happened two years ago. Wickets may have changed since. You can’t compare the pressure factor either,” added Chopra. Not often do ‘ex’ and other factors stack up so heavily in favour of India when they take on Australia. Onus on Smith’s men to change that, with perceptions.